Nearly three-quarters of investors plan to buy into the stock market in the next three months, according to a survey commissioned by American Skandia, a major underwriter of variable annuities.

Mutual funds were the top investment option, favored by 41% of the 607 male and 399 female heads of household surveyed. Six months ago, 38% said they preferred mutual funds.

Individual stocks in U.S. companies were the second-most popular investment choice, named by one-third of respondents.

The survey was limited to investors with household incomes of $75,000 or more and who had purchased or sold mutual funds, stocks, or bonds in the past year.

Although 80% of survey participants counted tax savings as a important element in their investment decisions, only one-third owned variable annuities - which defer taxes on investment gains.

The survey, conducted quarterly, will be updated in December.

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